Oblate Associate Outreach: Accompanying the Dying
By Veronica “Ronnie” Ehrhart
As a daughter of a funeral director who was involved with death 24/7, I had a close-up view of death and dying from the age of six until age twenty-seven. Coming from this background, I am familiar with death and accustomed to its various faces (expressions and ensuing changes).
Many people at the end of life fear death, but for Christians this should not be the case. However, death is an experience that none of us have ever experienced before, so most people are apprehensive and would appreciate a familiar “someone” nearby for the embarkation upon an unknown journey into the spiritual realm – that moment in time when the soul departs from the earthly body. Many a time, I have heard people say, “I don’t want to die alone.” It is also what I feel for myself. Being the only surviving member of my family, beside one close cousin who lives quite a distance away, it could well be my fate to die alone, i.e. without the presence of a fellow human sojourner. As an Oblate Associate, I have the conviction that I am not really alone, that God and the whole heavenly host will see me through; I realize not everyone has this view.
This conviction has led me to an outreach opportunity as an Oblate Associate living at Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community. Family members of a dying resident have on occasion requested my presence with their loved one, or sometimes a nurse will notify me if they think I would be helpful. At such times, I will make my presence known to the person. Though I am lame and confined to a wheelchair, my voice is strong. With permission, I gently and confidently proceed with a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, or The Twenty Third Psalm, or another appropriate Scripture passage. On one occasion I prayed The Maginficant.
As the dying approach death, there is a struggling, be it physical or spiritual. At such a time there is a unrest – a flood, perhaps, of fond memories, regrets, and questionable hopes and maybe a review of “Was my life good enough?” along with an inward cry to God for forgiveness and salvation beyond the grave. Dying is not easy. There is turmoil in the mind, and many physical changes are taking place in the body.
We know that hearing is the last of the human senses to perish. It makes sense that the “hearing” of God’s Word brings a special peace. I have witnessed a decrease in fidgeting and flailing about at these times. It is amazing to me the calming affect such readings seemed to effect on these restless souls. The cessation of agitation seems to indicate: “Okay, I can go now; I accept my death. I am not dying alone.” As Christ said on the cross, “Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit.” And thus “It is finished” and I, in my ministry, have witnessed awesome moments. Peace prevails.